Poem for Holy Saturday: Limbo

Limbo

The ancient greyness shifted
Suddenly and thinned
Like mist upon the moors
Before a wind.
An old, old prophet lifted
A shining face and said:
“He will be coming soon.
The Son of God is dead;
He died this afternoon.”

A murmurous excitement stirred all souls.
they wondered if they dreamed-
Save one old man who seemed
Not even to have heard.

And Moses standing,
Hushed them all to ask
If any had a welcome song prepared.
If not, would David take the task?
And if they cared
Could not the three young children sing
The Benedicite, the canticle of praise
They made when God kept them from perishing
In the fiery blaze?

A breath of spring surprised them,
Stilling Moses’ words.
No one could speak, remembering
The first fresh flowers,
The little singing birds.
Still others thought of fields new ploughed

Or apple trees
All blossom-boughed.
Or some, the way a dried bed fills
With water
Laughing down green hills.
The fisherfolk dreamed of the foam
On bright blue seas.
The one old man who had not stirred
Remembered home.

And there He was
Splendid as the morning sun and fair
As only God is fair.
And they, confused with joy,
Knelt to adore
Seeing that He wore
Five crimson stars
He never had before.

No canticle at all was sung.
None toned a psalm, or raising a greeting song,
A silent man alone
Of all that throng
Found tongue-
Not any other.
Close to His heart
When embrace was done,
Old Joseph said,
“How is your Mother,
How is your Mother, Son?”

-Sister Mary Ada
The Reign Of Mary -Vol. XXV, No 76

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Good Friday: Christ is taken down from the Cross

“But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.” (John 19).

Caravaggio, The Entombment, 1602-03, Oil on canvas, 300 x 203 cm, Pinacoteca, Vatican

Caravaggio, The Entombment, 1602-03, Oil on canvas, 300 x 203 cm, Pinacoteca, Vatican

Christ in the House of Mary and Martha

A favorite gospel passage concerns Jesus and the hospitality of Martha and Mary, which follows the parable of the Good Samaritan, in the tenth chapter of Luke:

As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Martha hopes to show Our Lord a fitting welcome, to extend the hospitality of her household and to take care that it not be seen as lacking.

But she also misses the “better part”, i.e., the opportunity that is present in the moment, to draw near to the Word. She is distracted, and has allowed her desire to be hospitable to prevent her from receiving anything that the Lord’s imminence offers us.

Consider the following painting, “Christ in the House of Mary and Martha” by Vincenzo Campi (late 16th Century):

Vincenzo_Campi_-_Christ_in_the_House_of_Mary_and_Martha_-_WGA03831

This painting uses a glorious bounty — the type of hospitality Martha wishes to show Jesus — as an illustration of how much better is Mary’s chosen part.

It is admirable — and a most sympathetic depiction of Martha — that Campi does not trivialize Martha’s efforts (did you ever see Babette’s Feast (one of Pope Francis’ favorite films?). She isn’t being overly scrupulous about bustling around over a little bread and meat; rather, she is trying to serve Our Lord in a fitting way, in the way that a King should be attended.

We see every possible lovely thing for a feast in vast array — fresh fish (Martha holds a thick, marbled, pink salmon steak in her right hand), a beautiful ham, breads, crustaceans and seafood, poultry and fowl newly slaughtered and ready for dressing, carrots and cabbages and tomatoes and citrus and artichokes!

In other words, when Jesus says that Mary has chosen the better part, we are given a visual cue to enlighten us. Yes, better, even than all of this. Better than the most resplendent of king’s feasts. “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” (John 6:27).